The Generosity of Gardeners

  • Post published:06/06/2009
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Cooks are known for guarding their secret recipes. Gardeners are known for giving away plants, seeds and advice to anyone who seems moderately interested. This is the time of year when their generosity is most evident, the kind of generosity that benefits the community as well as any individual gardener.
Last weekend I volunteered at the annual Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club plant sale that featured many divisions from the Bridge of Flowers, as well as plants from members’ gardens. I brought a few divisions from my garden and brought home a few, as well as a couple of gorgeous geraniums from LaSalle’s greenhouses in Whately.
The money from the plant sale goes to support the expenses of the Bridge of Flowers.
The Bridge of Flowers makes running errands from one side of the river to the other such a pleasure for us locals, but it attracts many tourists who come to admire the Bridge and stay to shop at some of the local stores. It is not hard to see how the Bridge benefits gardeners who carry away coveted plants, and the greater community. All this happens through the generosity of women who garden and care for the town.
Today the Greenfield Garden Club is hosting its Spring Extravaganza at the Trap Plain Garden on the corner of Federal and Silver Streets. Plants are for sale, donated by local gardeners and there will be a tag sale of garden related items and a raffle as well. This is one of the Garden Club’s main fundraisers; their annual garden tour is coming up in July.
The Greenfield Garden Club organizes the barrel planter competition that helps beautify our streets, supports children’s garden programs at the schools, donates bulbs to civic plantings, maintains the Trap Plain garden and does all this while giving club members lots of information, camaraderie, and discounts a local garden shops.
Plant sales like these extend the generosity of individual gardeners to the whole community, but there are plant swaps that are organized in neighborhoods and between friends who share their collections of plants and help new, less experienced gardeners.
Some plant swaps, like that of Bette Sokoloski, are more organized. Bette holds plant swaps at her house at 2 Hobbie Rd in South Deerfield at 5:45 pm on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month into September. Call her at 665-4039 for more information.
The modern world being what it is, there is even a local on-line plant swap. Millie has started ‘tradeperennials’ on the Yahoo Groups site. All you have to do is go to and type in tradeperennials in the Search box to enroll. Gardeners list plants they have to share, and plants they are looking for. Many will accept a jar of homemade jam, bread or flower pots in trade for plants. Arrangements for pick up are made through email.
Even more informally are the times a gardener welcomes a visitor into the garden and when a plant is admired out comes the shovel or clipper so that the visitor can take home a root, division, or cutting. I have known some gardeners who maintain a ‘gift bed’. When the gardener has to divide a plant she’ll keep a couple of those divisions in a special bed to grow on so that when a plant is admired, the next stop is the gift bed; a division of that plant is all ready to be dug and sent away.
Local vegetable gardeners will have a new way to express their generosity this year by participating in the Plant a Row for the Hungry project. This project was begun 15 years ago by the Garden Writers of America. Over that time 14 million tons of food have been donated to various organizations throughout the country. Unfortunately the need that gave birth to this project has only increased.
This year the Franklin County Hunger Task Force is organizing a local Plant a Row (PAR) project to encourage gardeners to plant a little extra to give to local food pantries and senior meal sites. In fact, they remind us that most of us have too much of something a couple of times a season. Instead of ending up on the compost pile or mouldering away in the vegetable crisper, that produce, no matter how little, could provide a healthy meal for someone.
The Hunger Task Force, coordinated by the Franklin Resource Network and Community Action, has set up a website, that will list all the participating agencies accepting produce. Gardeners will be able to find the closest participating agency, their open hours, and a phone number. Information about agencies will be added throughout the season.
The website will include lots of information about the individuals participating on both ends of this project, growers and agencies, as well as recipes. I am proud to be a part of this project and hope I’ll be hearing from other gardeners and their participation. Readers will also be able to comment and ask questions through the website.
One of the reasons I like gardening is that it is so easy to be generous; there is always more than enough in the garden. As Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

May 23, 2009

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